Friday, March 9, 2012

Book review: World War Z by Max Brooks

Technically, it's World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, as compiled by Max Brooks, author of The Zombie Survival Guide, which (according to the book jacket) "formed the core of the world's civilian survival manuals during the Zombie War.  Mr. Brooks subsequently spent years traveling to every part of the globe in order to conduct the face-to-face interviews that have been incorporated into this present publication." Because what we have here is the testimony from individuals all across the globe who somehow survived the zombie apocalypse and who were willing to tell their tales.

About ten years after the end of the Zombie War - also known as "The Crisis," "The Dark Years," "The Walking Plague" and "World War Z" - when the living dead had been largely suppressed (although by no means eradicated). author Max Brooks put together this oral history, interviews conducted all around the world that had been supposed to go into the United Nation's Postwar Commission Report but were deemed too personal.  Feeling that the world's survivors would want to read about the experiences of folks just like them, Brooks put this book together.

Set up as a series of one-on-one interviews, Brooks covers the initial infection, the world's governments' immediate (or not so immediate) reactions, the global panic, the turning point in the war, the reclaiming of the planet and the subsequent reconstruction.  He talks to the Chinese doctor who discovered the epidemic, an American soldier who fought in the disastrous Battle of Yonkers, a blind Japanese gardener who developed his own anti-Z martial art, a Soviet soldier, a Chinese submariner, American and British politicians, a survivor of the catacombs of Paris.  Their stories are grim, their survival not at all taken for granted, their recovery in the aftermath dubious.

This is a damn cool book.  I found it compelling - even if you remove the impossibility of zombies from it, to see how Brooks thinks the world's governments and military might react in the face of a more realistic global catastrophe is fascinating.  I liked some of the vignettes more than others: South Africa's harsh, yet successful, response; the American fighter pilot battling for her life in the swamps of Louisiana; the battle of Hope, New Mexico; the K-9 battalions, all particular favorites.  But what Brooks does best is capture the human element, the despair and the terror and the courage, the world (nearly) united for once against a common undead enemy.  Highly recommended for anyone with even a passing interest in zombies.


  1. How cool is that---Walking Dead The Movie with Brad Pitt on it.

  2. I loved "World War Z". The documentary style worked great for this and made it more chilling. It reminded me of Warday in that matter-of-fact writing about horrible things can be incredibly effective. I'm not much of a zombie fan but I love post-apocalyptic fic and "WWZ" had that flavor.